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Swiss-Israeli arms deals to restart

Ariel Sharon (left) received the Swiss president, Samuel Schmid, on Wednesday Keystone

The defence ministry says it wants to purchase arms from Israel, lifting restrictions it placed on such deals three years ago.

This content was published on March 16, 2005 - 20:42

The announcement came after talks on Wednesday between Swiss president and defence minister, Samuel Schmid, and the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon.

A defence ministry spokesman said Schmid informed Sharon during their meeting in Jerusalem that the Swiss government wanted to normalise trade relations with Israel.

Last month, the ministry expressed its interest in buying SFr150 million ($130 million) worth of components for a telecommunications system.

However, the spokesman said no decision had been taken yet on the purchase.

The Swiss government decided to re-evaluate military cooperation with Israel, especially the purchase of arms, after the Israeli army re-occupied the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in 2002.

Turnaround

The announcement by the defence ministry on Wednesday marks an abrupt turnaround by the government.

At the beginning of February during a tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, said the cabinet did not intend to overturn its 2002 ruling.

Arms account for about three per cent of all Israeli exports to Switzerland.

In 2003, Switzerland imported Israeli goods worth SFr370 million, SFr90 million less than in the previous year.

Schmid began his Israeli visit on Tuesday when he was one of 40 government leaders and dignitaries to take part in the inauguration of a new museum at the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland imported SFr370.8 million of Israeli goods in 2003.
In 2002, the figure was SFr462.5 million.
Arms and munitions accounted for 3.9% of all Israeli imports last year.

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